Alexander

Oliver Stone is a director who always follows his passion. I doubt that he’s ever made a movie that didn’t mean something to him. This drive leads to bold characterizations and ideas pushed right to the edge. And sometimes beyond. Like Coppola and Scorcese, Stone generates more flawed masterpieces than actual masterpieces. He’s shown so much promise over the years, yet all it amounts to is one gem (Platoon) and a slew of “interesting” films.

Alexander the Great also followed his passions. Well, we can never really know the motivations of someone who lived so long ago, but it’s safe to say he was little bit driven. When I was in college, I learned that Alexander’s conquests linked east and west, changing the course of history, the classic example of the great man theory. He really took the Power of Positive Thinking to extremes. And yet, like Stone’s, Alexander’s creation lacked perfection. It split apart after his early death, and he didn’t have time to go as far as he believed he could.

It’s obvious that Stone identifies with his subject. There’s a lot in this film about excess as opposed to restraint. And the film follows suit, being almost three hours long and employing camera tricks like shooting on infrared stock. Unfortunately, it’s not a very profound theme. You’ll hear the same sort of thing during your next employee retreat or in-service day. And it’s not made very subtly. In scene after scene, a drunken Alexander, played by Colin Ferrell spouts his dreams and ambitions. Ptolomy, played by Anthony Hopkins, dictating his memoirs forty years later, as much as states the theme out loud, saying that if Alexander failed, what a failure.

Stone justifies Alexander’s Imperialistic excess by saying that he conquered all those people in order to free them. I grant you that Greek culture at the time was vastly more liberal than the authoritarian regimes he fought, but he was still guilty of atrocity, and in western culture things like slavery, torture and public execution were accepted and even respected parts of society for the following millenium. Progress toward freedom was made in baby steps in the ancient world. I think it’s more likely that Alexander was motivated by plunder or power than a desire to free people. He didn’t train and educate the conquered Persians because he thought they were equals; he wanted to go on and that was the only way to increase the size of his army. Whatever progressive effects arose in Asia Minor from Alexander’s efforts were incidental to his intentions.

But back to the movie, itself. The visuals are impressive. From the dust and confusion of the battles to the exotic splendor of Babylon, the film has a rich look to it. The battles, which I’m told Stone obsessed over, are graphic and kinetic.

The performances are merely adequate. One day Colin Ferrell may well be nominated for an Oscar; he’s that good. But here he doesn’t really capture the essence of the character. Who could? My main problem with biopics is that they too often just give us the facts. They don’t try to delve into the subject’s psychology. In Alexander Stone has gone too far the other way. What we get is dime store Freud. Alexander spends his life trying to please Mommy and outdo Daddy. We are pounded with this stuff.

In the end, the film says more about Oliver Stone than it does about Alexander the Great. Of course, if I were to compare Alexander to any filmaker of Stone’s generation, it would be Scorcese, who has more great films under his belt than Stone.

It’s a shame Orson Welles never thought of this. He probably couldn’t have pulled it off either, but his film would have been more “interesting.”

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1 Response to “Alexander”


  1. 1 xbigbuttex December 9, 2004 at 11:50 pm

    I think we need more teen movies made here. I think i could do it and make sure it is a good movie. Pluse if you might make one contact me and i’ll be in it to .


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